Ohio State landed not only one of the better basketball recruits in the country (2021 class) Wednesday afternoon, but also secured one of the highest-ranked prospects in program history with the verbal commitment of 6-foot-4 shooting guard Malaki Branham.
Branham (Akron/St. Vincent-St. Mary) announced the Buckeyes as his college choice following a recruitment stretch of more than two years. He is rated the No. 27 player nationally, No. 5 at his position and the top target in Ohio according to the latest 247Sports composite rankings.
That first number ranks Branham as the 10th-best recruit ever for Ohio State, coming in behind the likes of Greg Oden (1), B.J. Mullens (2), Jared Sullinger (4), Kosta Koufos (13), William Buford (13), Daequan Cook (14), D’Angelo Russell (16), Deshaun Thomas (19) and Mike Conley (22).
Ohio State's other two promising commits in the class are combo guard Meechie Johnson (No. 89 nationally) and power forward Kalen Etzler (No. 90 nationally). But Branham will undoubtedly be viewed as the prime centerpiece, both on and off the floor, moving forward for a program looking to reach the next level under fourth-year head coach Chris Holtmann.
On the hardwood, he is expected to become a critical piece of the OSU backcourt… especially with guards CJ Walker and graduate transfer Abel Porter entering their final years of eligibility.
Off the floor, the likely hopes are that Branham’s commitment grabs attention of other top recruits in the future and makes them consider Ohio State… regardless of how long he might be in Columbus. Branham currently plays alongside fellow top-50 prospect Sencire Harris (class of 2022) at SVSM.
The versatile Branham has helped guide St. Vincent-St. Mary (alma mater of LeBron James) to a combined 45-8 record the past two seasons, including an appearance in the OHSAA state championship game as a sophomore. He grew up in Columbus, moved to Akron for high school, and will now be returning home for college ball.